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SC refuses to stay order on minorities quota

Last updated on: June 11, 2012 15:49 IST

The Supreme Court on Monday expressed its displeasure and pulled up the government for its casual handling of the "complex" and "sensitive" issue of 4.5 percent sub-quota for minorities within the 27 percent reservation for Other Backward Castes in central educational institutions like Indian Institutes of Technology.

Refusing to stay the Andhra Pradesh high court order, which had quashed the central government notification for 4.5 percent sub-quota for minorities, a bench of justices K

S Radhakrishnan and J S Khehar said it was "unhappy" that the Centre filed an appeal without any supporting documents.

Without issuing any notice, the bench asked Attorney General GE Vahanvati to submit to it the supporting documents for carving out 4.5 percent sub quota from the existing 27 percent reservation for OBCs.

The bench posted the matter for hearing on Wednesday saying, "We must have some documents before us."

Attorney General Vahanvati submitted that some protection should be granted as the counselling for IITs was on and 325 candidates have qualified for it under the 4.5 percent sub-quota and their career and future could be jeopardised if they are not allowed to appear for the counselling.

The bench, however, said before it passed any order, the Centre will have to place before it some documents.

During the brief hearing, the bench wanted to know from the law officer as to what was the basis and how did the government determine 4.5 percent sub-quota for minorities and carved it out of the 27 percent quota for OBCs.

When the attorney general sought to point out errors in the high court order, the bench said it was natural for the high court to ask questions on which the Centre was complaining.

"Without placing documents how can you find fault with the high court (order)," the bench said.

The bench also questioned the government saying, "How can you (Centre) break up the 27 percent OBC quota?"

"It is a complex matter, you are carving out sub-quota from 27 percent quota. Tomorrow you will carve out further quota," it said.

When Vahanvati said he would satisfy how 4.5 percent reservation was provided, the bench shot back, "You could have satisfied the high court. You should have produced the material. This is a sensitive issue and it is not a matter to handle in this manner."

"We are unhappy with the manner the government issued the office memorandum in this sensitive matter. You should have exercised some care. We would have been happy if any statutory authority like National Commission for Minorities would have been consulted," the bench said.

When Vahanvati said there was need for some protection in view of the ongoing counselling for IITs, the bench said, "We will not order stay."

"First of all you have not produced any documents in the high court. We would have been happy, if you had done so," the bench said.

The Union government had moved the apex court challenging the Andhra Pradesh high court order quashing the 4.5 per cent reservation for minorities within the 27 percent OBC quota in central educational institutions such as IITs.

The Centre contended that the high court had taken an erroneous view in striking down the provision despite the decision to provide the quota was done after an extensive survey.

The high court on May 28 had held that the Centre acted in a "casual manner" in granting the 4.5 percent sub-quota to minorities, carving it out of 27 percent OBC reservation.

The high court had said the office memorandum creating the sub-quota was based on religious grounds and not on any other intelligible consideration.

The December 22, 2011, OM for a 4.5 percent sub quota for socially and educationally backward classes of citizens belonging to the minority communities out of the 27 percent reservation for OBCs in central educational institutions and jobs was announced by the Centre ahead of the general assembly elections in five states including Uttar Pradesh and Punjab.

The very use of the words "belonging to minorities" or "for minorities" indicates that the sub-quota has been carved out only on religious lines and not on any other intelligible basis, the high court had observed while setting aside the sub-quota.

The high court judges had said, "In fact, we must express our anguish at the rather casual manner in which the entire issue has been taken up by the central government."

"No evidence has been shown to us by the learned assistant solicitor general to justify the classification of these religious minorities as a homogeneous group or as more backward classes deserving some special treatment.

"We must therefore, hold that Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Zoroastrians (Parsis) do not form a homogeneous group but a heterogeneous group," it had observed.

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